The Fountain of Youth

“There is a fountain of youth: It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

That wisdom was shared by the one and only Sophia Loren. I didn’t see many movies starring Ms. Loren growing up — except for “Houseboat.” It was shown more than once on the Sunday afternoon movies on the local NBC affiliate. That last bit of trivia has nothing to do with this post, but reminded me of why I once thought having a nanny was a great idea. In truth, I thought living on a houseboat was even a grander idea, but the nanny concept was right up there pretty close.

I have never really pursued a fountain of youth. I don’t recall having a mid-life crisis, either. That could be because I didn’t have one or because I simply can no longer remember.

Throughout my 6+ decades I haven’t really thought about aging because the mental picture I carry of myself is one from my 20s — or perhaps my 30s or 40s — but certainly not my 60s. I spend a majority of my time thinking I can still do things I did a long time ago. And then there are those moments that I can’t. Without a doubt, I am getting old.

Those hesitant moments are different from other moments. After my recent shoulder surgery I was surprised when I could not, no matter how hard I tried, raise my arm. That is an injured moment — acute, but not chronic. These more senior moments are the ones that hit you in the gut with the realization that “this” (whatever “this” is) will never, ever get any better.

I had one of those moments at the gym yesterday. I’d like to tell you about how I can no longer benchpress several hundred pounds and how disappointing that was. However, I’ve been disappointed by that inability all of my life. No, the difficult moment I experienced was in a quiet corner of the locker room.

Often times I go to the gym very early in the morning. And, in an effort to conserve time, it is my practice to shower and dress for work while there. Before yesterday, I had always worn my glasses into the shower area, laid them aside with my towel and then donned them again on my way back to the locker room.

Ever seeking efficiency, I had the grand idea yesterday that I would leave my glasses in my locker. It greatly lessens the chance that I might lose them or drop them. So off I went to the showers sans eyeglasses. Shower completed I retraced my steps to my locker. It was then it hit me.

Without my glasses, I couldn’t see the numbers on the combination lock. I made an effort. I squinted. I rotated my head in bird fashion to elevate my good eye to a superior position. I squeezed my eyes tight and then opened them rapidly. I even tried to read the numbers on the lock in Braille-like fashion with my fingertips.

Nothing worked. The truth became much more clear than the numbers on that lock. I cannot see without my glasses. Nor will it ever get any better. I’m simply to that age.

We all have these moments when we see something we’ve taken for granted slipping away. Or in my case, not just slipping. That train had completely left the station. With that in mind, I was forced to begin thinking differently about the reality of our limited existence on this earth.

You would think at this point in the story that I might introduce a dramatic plot twist revealing my McGyver-like thinking and problem-solving. Instead, I turn to a bit of philosophy.

There comes a time when you have to turn the business of the day over to someone younger and better prepared.

And so I did. I was a little embarrassed to ask for help. Young guy. Maybe late fifties. More than happy to come to my assistance. With it, he offered this sound advice: “Don’t leave your glasses in the locker next time. No telling what might happen to you.”

Words to live by. Keep your glasses close by. Never go too far without extra hearing aid batteries. If you really believe you can outrun that car, you’re simply wrong. But that’s a story for another day.

 

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2 thoughts on “The Fountain of Youth

  1. I’ve noticed that the older I get, the further away ‘old’ becomes. As a child the age of 30 was ancient in my mind. With every passing year it gets pushed further and further away as I realize that old only really refers to the body and not necessarily the mind. Old means experienced. Old is ok. In the back of my mind I’ve always pictured myself growing older and being a ‘cool’ granny. The one who will break out in dance and make the little one’s laugh. I’ve looked forward to being more open as I age and the cares of the world’s thinking get smaller and smaller in my mind. I picture myself shocking the young with my outspokenness that thus far has only been hidden away in the recesses of my quiet and shy mind. I had many ideas of old and how I want to be. Being hit with an invincible illness has changed those thoughts as my body is catching up to ‘old’ really fast and my mind is being left behind. Being a type A do it myself personality does not fit well with illness. Having to ask for help, learning pacing, and trying to relax and know that it doesn’t have to get done right away has been a major adjustment. Now as I think of being ‘old’ in the future, my only desire is to reach it! You’ve been blessed with your years so I can only say to enjoy every moment of your ‘youth’ and life that you’ve been blessed with. Guess we still learn and adjust even when ‘old’, constantly shifting the way of doing things that fit with our ‘now’. Thank you for sharing, I enjoyed reading your post!

    • Dianne, Thanks so much for sharing this. I love your insight about those times when aging progresses on two paths, particularly as the body departs from our “inner age” of mind and spirit. Being faced with physical challenges each day is difficult and life-changing. I think your phrase “invincible illness” is a vivid reminder. God bless you in your journey.